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Tourism U.S.-Mexico states unite to promote border tourism

With a to-do list that includes financial impact studies and promoting Spanish missions as a heritage tourism destination, tourism officials of California and states on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border continue to shape an alliance.

The work will likely be to San Diego’s advantage in particular, said Caroline Beteta, executive director of the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

“It has strong grounding, frankly, for the San Diego region,” Beteta said. “The reality is, the San Diego region’s set to benefit most.”

Beteta is a co-president of the group, which calls itself the Board of Governors Tourism Council.

Two years ago, the council spun itself off from the general Board of Governors organization, which has a more general focus of economic development.

The tourism council, which includes representatives of 10 states from both countries, met Feb. 26 in Tijuana and created several proposals to improve tourism in the border region.

The ideas will be presented in a joint communiqu & #233; that the Board of Governors are expected to sign when they meet again in June, said Juan Tintos Funcke, tourism secretary for Baja California.

The ideas include supporting the region’s culture and environment, developing an information outreach program and setting up a program that protects economic development and the transit of tourists, according to Tintos, who is also co-president of the tourism council.

Beteta said heritage tourism is one project her department plans to focus on.

She wants to create a cooperative marketing campaign that would raise the profile of the region’s Spanish missions , more than 20 of them in total, she said.

The campaign would position the missions as a joint, cultural destination and travel product.

For now, there aren’t any dollars to fund the project, so the campaign would be fueled by states’ public relations efforts and Web site support until federal dollars are available, Beteta said.

Something that could find funding sooner is a study that would determine the amount of money generated by tourists who cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s very important for us to understand who’s coming in so, from a California perspective, we can better target our message in bringing in and developing more Mexican in-bound tourists, which obviously assist the California economy , principally the San Diego region,” Beteta said.

“We in California are willing to cooperatively seed that study, and I think that there are other states that are very interested in that as well,” she continued.

The next step is finding possible vendors and sources for data, and preliminary meetings to do that are starting now, Beteta said. Recent changes in leadership for both countries have slowed the process slightly, she said.

Progress on the study’s cost and available funding will likely be a focus in June, Tintos said.

In regard to the tourism council, California plans to establish an area dedicated to information on Baja California’s tourism at the California Welcome Center Oceanside and provide information for a guide to cross-border travel that some of the Mexican states are creating.

Eventually, Beteta would like to collaborate with the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau on distributing information on tourism in the other border states.

Tintos said that last month’s meeting was a good starting point for a broader recognition of the border states’ economic interdependence on each other and the border crossing.

When tourism and other industries succeed in Mexico, it brings more money to the United States, Tintos said. According to figures he’s heard, visitors from Mexico spend as much as $2.9 billion in Southern California annually.

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